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Who would you say was the greatest NBA players of each decade for the past 40 years?

1950s:

Bob Pettit – George Mikan, Bob Cousy runner ups

Yeah I’m going with Pettit over Mikan and Cousy. The reasoning being: Mikan had no competition for his time and it was pre shot clock, pre goaltending era, he was playing in a baby version of the NBA basically. Cousy was a great player but he was overshadowed by his teammate Bill Russell.

Pettit – one of the most underrated players of all time – I feel that he is the best player of the 50s, he won 2 MVPs in the decade and was the only player to beat Russell’s Celtics in the Finals. He also would have *dominated* Mikan if he was playing at the same time. And was an alpha dog on the team unlike Cousy. He never averaged below 20 pts a game and he holds the third highest rebounding average all time. It’s definitely him.

1960s:

Bill Russell – Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West runner ups

The only other choice is Wilt Chamberlain here. Now I love Wilt but if I’m looking at the achievements only by this decade, Russell has to take it. He won every single ring of the decade except for one year. He led the league in defensive win shares almost every single year. You might say that Russell had a better team than Wilt most of the time – which was true – but Russell had intangibles that Wilt didn’t have. Wilt had all the tangibles – all the stats, athleticism etc – but there is the fact that Russell is 10–0 in Game 7s. It’s not like his team was that dominant that he demolished Wilt or West’s teams every year, there were many many times where Russell’s Celtics came close to elimination – and Russell pulled through almost every time – he was 17–2 in elimination games. Russell was the Jordan of centers. He had that killer instinct that no one else had. He was the leader of the most dominant dynasty in all of pro sports. I have to put him here.

1970s:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Julius Erving, Artis Gilmore runner ups

Kareem won 5 MVPs, 1 Ring, 1 Finals MVP in the decade and starred in Game of Death with Bruce Lee. How can you beat that resume? Really the 70s is generally the hardest decade to rank because of how divided the league was and how much parity it had. There was no clear superstar of the decade like there was for the 80s and 90s. That said – although Kareem had a tendency to get outrebounded and outworked on the glass by guys like Dave Cowens and Moses Malone and Bill Walton and old Wilt Chamberlain – he still outscored them all and was still a stellar defensive player no less. I’m taking Kareem.

1980s:

Magic Johnson – Larry Bird, Moses Malone runner ups

I’m taking Magic over Bird. He had 8 Finals appearances in the decade – that’s literally every year except for 1981 and 1986 – and won 5 of them. He beat Bird’s Celtics 2–1 in the Finals that decade. He also has 1 more Finals MVP than Bird. So yeah I’m going with probably my favorite player of all time – Magic.

1990s

Michael Jordan – Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone runner ups

Do I really need to explain this one? 6 Finals, 6 rings, 6 Finals MVPs during this decade. Nuff said.

2000s:

Kobe Bryant – Tim Duncan, Shaq runner ups

Really Tong? I thought you hated Kobe, so why is he on here instead of Duncan? Let me explain. Yes I do think Kobe is overrated by the vast majority of fans but we’re talking about just the 2000s decade alone? Duncan’s dominance was spread out through 3 decades – which is incredible – while Kobe’s dominance was mostly focused in the 2000s. That’s the basic reason why I am picking Kobe here. If this was about who was the all time greater player – I’m taking Duncan – but here we’re talking strictly about the 2000s then I’m taking Kobe by a slim margin. Duncan was 3–0 in the Finals in the 2000s, had 2 MVPs and 2 Finals MVPs, but Kobe was 4–2 in the Finals in the 2000s, had 1 MVP and 1 Finals MVP. He had more Finals appearances and rings than Duncan, but less MVPs and Finals MVPs. It’s a very tough decision, but I gotta go with Kobe because having twice as many Finals appearances as Duncan in the same decade is not something to throw away – I value Finals appearances whether they end up winning or losing, which I will take into account for my next player here.

2010s:

Lebron James – Kevin Durant, Steph Curry runner ups

What else can I say here, this guy went to every single Finals of the decade except for 2010 and 2019. Unlike Magic, he did this with 2 different teams which is actually more impressive since usually it takes time to gel and build chemistry with a team, but Lebron is just amazing, he takes two completely different rosters and takes them to the Finals every single year. I don’t think there’s any other reasonable pick for this decade. I like Durant and Curry but they aren’t Lebron James.

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Jordan’s stats head to head versus the best defensive guards of his era prove he was unstoppable

I do have the stats here for head to head against various other great defensive guards of his era and it’s safe to say that nobody could really guard Jordan.

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Vs Sidney Moncrief (2x DPOY)

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Vs Joe Dumars (5x All-Def)

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Vs Michael Cooper (1x DPOY)

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Vs Dennis Johnson (9x All-Def)

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Vs Alvin Robertson (1x DPOY)

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Vs Gary Payton (1x DPOY)

Jordan dropped 30+ on every great defensive guard of his era. And what’s more, held them all to 15pts and below.

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Sports

Debunking NBA Myths: Was Jordan ‘rusty’ in 1995?

  1. that Kobe Bryant was robbed of MVPs – I’ve already answered that here.
  2. that Jordan was ‘rusty’ in his 1995 comeback and that’s why he lost to the Orlando Magic

Let me explain the second one. Jordan fans like to imagine that he would win 8 straight championships in a row if he didn’t retire. For 1994 – I agree that with Jordan on the team, they probably would have beaten the Knicks and gone on to beat Hakeem’s Rockets (who only had one other all star in Otis Thorpe) that year and Jordan would have won his 4th NBA championship in 1994 instead of 1996.

However this doesn’t apply to 1995. Because we already know what happened in 1995. Jordan came back late in the season, and then played the entire playoffs and lost to Shaq/Penny’s Magic in 6 games. But Jordan was rusty right? he only played 17 games in the regular season!

Uhh.. nope. Jordan came back pretty much just as strong as he left it and the stats back this up.

In 1995, Jordan performed better in the playoffs than he did in 1996. Crazy right? But he won 72 games in 1996 and he lost to the Magic in 1995! How can that be?

Because Jordan fans don’t want to admit that basketball is a team game. its not based on one individual superstar, even though the NBA is marketed that way. The loss of Horace Grant (ironically, to the Magic) in 1995 left the Bulls without an interior presence to defend Shaq. Horace Grant wasn’t just a role player – he was an all star and the second best player on the team after Pippen in 1994.
In 1996, the Bulls acquired Dennis Rodman and they got the inside presence they needed to beat the Magic that year.

This is the concept that Jordan and Kobe fans don’t understand: it’s not about one individual player putting up massive scoring stats; the rest of your team has to be good as well. Rings are a team achievement and so is MVP in fact; MVPs are always given to the player on a top 3 seeded team (except for Westbrook because he averaged a triple double) so in fact even for MVP which is a so called individual award, having a good team still matters. That’s why Kobe was not robbed of MVP in 2005/2006 – his team wasn’t good enough and that matters in MVP voting.

That’s how Jordan put up better stats in 1995, and still lost. He definitely was not rusty.